I paid thousands of dollars learning how to be a teacher. Years of my life were spent in a University classroom learning how to plan engaging lessons, assess knowledge, and manage a class full of diversity.
My father never attended college. Didn’t spend the money and never heard the lectures. Yet he was the greatest teacher I’ve ever known.
He taught me the things I never learned in school. Like how to ride a bike, caulk a bathtub and drive a car. He taught me how to find the stud in a wall, anchor a picture, and check the oil in my car. I learned how to paint trim in a room without painter’s tape as a little girl when he painted what felt like 128 rooms at our church. The two of us fixed my leaky sink together. I was pregnant, and he had chemo brain. So things got worse before they got better. But we fixed it.
But the intangible things are what I remember most now. He taught me how to be patient, yet firm as a parent. Growing up I knew my boundaries. I also knew if I disobeyed he would spank the snot out of me. He cried nearly every time he spanked us, but spanked us nonetheless.
He taught me to live in the moment. To “be here now”. I couldn’t tell you any gifts he gave me growing up. But I remember him spending time with us. Playing on the tire swing, or helping us take care of our bunnies. I remember him coming in our room at night and saying prayers.
As an adult, he still made a point to spend time me. We went to flea markets, yard sales and took long drives through dog-town.
He taught me the importance of humor in nearly any situation.
This is a picture of daddy planking. (It was a big thing a few years ago.)
We were at IU Medical Center in the process of getting him on the liver transplant list. He knew if he didn’t get a new liver, it would only be a matter of time. Yet, there he is planking. That was my daddy.
The greatest teacher I knew usually taught his lessons with very few words. He would demonstrate how to do something once, then make us do it. I can’t count the number of screws I stripped learning how to use a drill. He would patiently tell me to try again and lean my shoulder in a little more.
At the end of his life I learned some hard, but much needed lessons. He may not have even known he was teaching me, but he was.
He knew his time on earth was nearly over, but he didn’t complain. The surgeries and chemo took a toll on his body and mind, but he never lost hope. Sure, there were grumpy times and sad times. But overall he lived life to the fullest he could.
When we found out the cancer had spread and he could not receive a liver transplant I was so angry. Boy did I tell God a few things.
Daddy said, “The next person on the list must have needed it more than me.”
My father taught me death is not something to fear. Countless times he would tell me, “I’m not afraid to die. I know where I’m going.”
The oncologist said there wasn’t much more to be done and ordered hospice. He said to go home and be as comfortable as possible. Daddy didn’t sulk and cry. He put on his favorite pajamas and robe and got comfortable on the couch. He spent time talking with family and friends who came to visit. True to his character, he threw some humor into the last conversation I had with him.
My father taught me how to work hard, laugh a lot, and show affection to the people you love every single day. But most importantly, my father taught me the importance of knowing and serving God. This lesson has carried me through the dark times after his passing.
Tomorrow will mark the one year anniversary of his death. I haven’t seen his face or heard his voice in a year. But I’m still learning from him.
I’m hoping as you grow, I can pass on the lessons he taught me.
I will hug you, even when you don’t want me to.
I will cover you up with a blanket, even on a hot summer day.
I will tell you, “I love you” every single day, even when you’re not acting lovable.
I will give you the gift of my time and affection, even through the awkward teenage years.
I will show you how to check the oil in your car.
I will instill in you a love for antiques, flea markets and all things old & junky.
I will show you how sometimes “less is more”, especially when it comes to the words you speak.
I will be patient with you as you learn new things.
And I will teach you about the God your PawPaw loved.